017522 (1)Wildlife viewing in Florida is a $4.9 billion industry annually, supporting up to 44,000 jobs statewide. Bird watching is the top sector of the wildlife viewing economy, with over 1.3 million tourists enjoying Florida’s shorebirds each year. The Nature Coast is an important wintering and nesting area for waterbirds (shorebirds, seabirds, and wading birds), but these valuable bird populations are threatened by seemingly harmless human behaviors. There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce negative impacts on the valuable waterbirds of the Nature Coast.

Nesting and Roosting Bird Disturbance:

People love to see birds take flight as they cruise past an island, but did you know that repeated disturbances by boats and people threaten bird survival and nest success? When birds fly away in response to disturbance they could be leaving nests and chicks vulnerable or using up vital energy reserves needed for migration. Keep at least 300 ft away from birds. If they take flight, you are too close.

Downloadable Brochure

1. Avoid disturbing birds: Waterbirds will concentrate and rest, or roost, on coastal lands (islands, shell rakes, etc.) where they are safe from predators. These roost sites are limited along the Nature Coast, and landing on or approaching these locations too closely can force birds to move to areas that are not as safe. To protect our nesting and roosting birds, stay back at least 300 ft. If birds appear agitated or take flight, you are too close.

2. Respect posted signs: Avoid entering areas of land or water that have been posted with signs. These areas have been designated to protect birds and their nests. Birds that nest in trees and vegetation can fly off suddenly if disturbed, crushing or pushing eggs from nests, or leaving eggs or chicks vulnerable to predators. Nests and chicks of ground-nesting birds are often difficult to see, and can be easily stepped on.

3. Keep your distance: Motorized boats tend to be the most disruptive to birds, but self-propelled vessels such as kayaks can often approach much closer and greatly disturb roosting and nesting birds. To reduce bird disturbance, keep back 300 ft and use binoculars or a camera zoom to observe birds.

4. Keep your pets leashed and away from birds: Dogs on and off leash are perceived as a threat and may cause birds to abandon nests or colonies. In general, keep your dogs out of roosting and nesting areas, and as far away from birds as possible.

Downloadable Brochure (pdf, Source: FWC)

5. Be a good steward: If you see other people disturbing wildlife, politely let them know about the effects of their actions. Many people do not realize that their actions may be harmful to wildlife. If someone is deliberately disturbing birds, you can report the wildlife violation to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Bird-Friendly Fishing:
017522 (1)Saltwater recreational fishing is at $7.9 billion industry annually and supports over 109,000 jobs. In fact, Florida leads the nation in the number of saltwater anglers and is touted as the Fishing Capital of the World. With the high number of anglers that enjoy Florida’s coastal waters, interactions between anglers and birds are bound to occur. Luckily, anglers can use bird-safe practices to reduce needless entanglement, injury, and death of Florida’s iconic shorebirds.

1. If you hook a bird, DON’T CUT THE LINE:
Don eye protection and slowly reel in the bird. When the bird is close, throw a towel or t-shirt over its head to help calm it. Enlist a buddy to help you hold the bird’s beak, using gloves if possible. Push the barb of the hook forward and cut off with wire cutters. Back the remainder of the hook out and disentangle any monofilament from the bird before releasing. Click here for an illustrated brochure and see the FWC’s dehooking website for more.Navarre Fishing Pier in Navarre, Florida, photographed for the Naturally Escarosa phone application.

2. Do not feed seabirds: Feeding seabirds draws them in to areas where fishing occurs, putting them at increased danger of entanglement and injury.

3. Dispose of fish carcasses properly: Fish carcasses should be kept away from birds. They should be bagged and thrown in a lidded garbage can or ground up in a macerator before being thrown in the water. In addition to drawing birds to unsafe areas, improper disposal of fish carcasses puts birds at risk of ingesting items too big for them to swallow. This can lead to choking or puncture of throat pouch or esophagus. In addition, feeding pelicans is prohibited by law in Florida.

4. Recycle your unwanted monofilament: Most fishing piers and boat ramps in Florida have monofilament recycling bins available. Please use these bins to send your used fishing line to be recycled. This helps reduce entanglement of birds and other wildlife in fishing line and helps keeps our waterways clean. Click here for more.

No bin at your local boat ramp or pier? Please contact savanna.barry@ufl.edu to find out how to obtain a monofilament recycling bin for boat ramps and piers in the Nature Coast (Hernando-Wakulla).